Disjunctive Curricular Organization: Causes and Solutions

Debatably there are many issues with the current organization of the curriculum, not only in Canada, but also all over the world. One of the most significant and lesser understood of these issues is known as disjunctive curricular organization and it affects all students in all different types of courses. This theory is discussed with detail in the essay “Other Voices, Other Rooms” by University of Chicago professor, Gerald Graff. Disjunctive curricular organization occurs when students experience different opinions and ideas spanning over different courses, semesters, and even different years of education. What one teacher tells and expects of students in one classroom may be the exact opposite in another. So, what are the students to do about this underlying lack of regulation? The answer to this definitely varies, but many solutions are proposed, for students, teachers, and the entire curriculum itself.

Strewn throughout Graff’s essay are several possible solutions to this problem. The major connection between any of the outlined solutions is the presence of a relationship. The first suggests that there needs to be a clear connection between the different courses and the different lessons prepared by the teachers. These connections would allow students to see a wide range of conflicting, and possibly even contradictory ideas. Even as Graff writes, “the chance to try on a variety of ideas, to see what they feel like, is one of the most exciting opportunities an education can provide.” (22) But clearly, with such disorganization in place, these “exciting opportunities” of an education are being missed. A second proposal by Dr. Graff is an extended relationship between teachers and their students. One thing that is lacking in educational facilities is a strongly structured association between the two, but especially one that involves little or no intimidation. Again, as Graff exemplifies, “instructors in these situations are protected by the insularity of their classrooms” making it harder for a student to stand out and challenge what they’ve learned elsewhere, or from where ever their own opinions might lead them. As well, “professors do not expect such immunity from peer criticism” of their own professional colleagues (Buffington, Diogenes, and Moneyhun 22). Students hardly have the same defense against such scrutiny, and this is just as much as cause of this disorganization. Lastly, expectations of courses need to be outlined from the beginning as to save confusion for the student. In an example from the essay, writing in the passive voice is the common standard for sociology, but is harshly criticized in English. (Buffington, Diogenes, and Moneyhun 23) The solutions mentioned are quite valid and articulate; however whether or not they provide perfect results is a different story.

Solutions like those above often work in theory, but not in practice. They are great potential workings to eliminate the entire issue of disjunctive curricular organization, but they are no more than just potential. It is impossible for educators to know exactly what every other teacher is applying for their own class. Intimidation will always be another factor which his impossible to bypass. Some amount of pressure will always exist between students and teachers, no matter how open the teacher is. Finally, what’s expected in terms of learning and writing styles, and assumptions of knowledge is going to be so great; no teacher can necessarily know which of their expectations would differ from the other teachers and courses.

Disjunctive curricular organization weighs between a student’s grades and their own morals. With the pressure that is placed on doing well in school (especially high school, which is definitely no exception to such an issue), students will, more often than not, put their morals behind for a so-called “better future.” Students are willing to simply set all the principles aside and just give the teacher what they want, and the currently established curriculum practically encourages it. There are plenty of “rich potential conversations within and across the disciplines,” we just need to find ways to extract them and let students use them to their advantage. (Buffington, Diogenes, and Moneyhun 21) And although the solutions implied by Gerald Graff in his essay “Other Voices, Other Rooms” may have minor flaws, they certainly can be used as a basis for a better education system in the future.

Works Cited

  1. Buffington, Nancy, Marvin Diogenes, and Clyde Moneyhuns. Living Languages: Contexts for Reading and Writing. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1997.